Heal Your Injuries Faster with the Ancient Form of Alternative Medicine known as Cupping Therapy
By Tim Alemi
Cupping Therapy originated in ancient Egyptian and Chinese medicine, however, it has since made its way into the world of western orthopedic medicine. It is commonly used today in orthopedic physical therapy for the treatment of pain, trigger points, and myofascial adhesions. Cupping therapy has seen a dramatic rise in popularity recently due to increased media exposure secondary to an increase in athletes and celebrities supporting this ancient form of alternative medicine. Cupping therapy describes the act of placing a plastic, glass, or bamboo “cups” onto the body to create negative pressure, or a vacuum, to pull the skin away from the affected area. Once the cup is placed on the skin, the “vacuum” is created by suctioning the air out from the cup. The underlying tissue is pulled away from the body, resulting in improved perfusion to the affected area. Cups can be fixed on one localized area or moving to drag cups across a larger area to create a skin-rolling, massage-like effect. Treatments typically last for about 5-15 minutes before cups are removed from the skin. Cupping therapy in the orthopedic physical therapy setting typically uses suction, but it is common in other professions to use fire as a modality to create a negative pressure vacuum. Prior to treatment, it is crucial to ensure that your patient is aware of circular bruising and mild discomfort that may occur as a side effect of this treatment.
Cupping Therapy Benefits
Cupping therapy in the orthopedic setting has contributed to beneficial outcomes for the reduction of pain. It helps to remove toxins, decreasing the presence of adhesions, mobilize subcutaneous connective tissue, stimulate the autonomic nervous system, and provide improved circulation to affected area. Regulation of the immune system and reduction of high blood pressure are two other benefits that have also been proposed as a result of this treatment. Cupping is an ideal alternative for patients who have soft-tissue dysfunction but do not tolerate palpation, soft-tissue mobilization, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, or cross-fiber massage.
Much of the research and evidence on cupping therapy is unreliable due to high risk of bias (84.44% of 135 RCTs)1. However, the results of a systematic review performed by Cao et al found that cupping may be an effective treatment for herpes zoster, acne, facial paralysis, and cervical spondylosis. An overview of systematic reviews performed by Lee et al suggests that cupping may be an effective alternative treatment for the reduction of pain.2 Cupping therapy is a good alternative to reduce pain in patients who cannot tolerate palpation or soft-tissue mobilization.
“ I was experiencing right hip pain that would increase each time I ran. Dr. Fox worked on my hip with manual therapy and cupping which reduced my symptoms 50% the first 2 visits”.
Have you used Cupping Therapy in the past? Tell us about your experience and tips you can share in the comments section below.
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